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Éder Militao

Porto to Real Madrid, €50m

Born in the Northern section of São Paulo, Éder Militão represented the youth teams at São Paulo Futebol Clube throughout his childhood. Progressing through the ranks quickly, the defender made his club debut at just 18 in an under-20 tournament, before making his professional debut the following year.

Militão went on to make 35 appearances in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A – Brazil’s highest domestic league – initially playing in central defence. However, the versatile defender was utilised at right-back towards the end of the 2017 season, then becoming the first choice for the start of the 2018 season.

The youngster wouldn’t see out the 2018 Série A campaign, as various scouts from clubs across Europe were vying for the defender’s signature. In August 2018, Militão moved to Portuguese champions FC Porto for £6 million, agreeing a five-year deal. The Brazilian defender immediately settled into his new surroundings, assisting the first of three goals in a comfortable debut victory over Moreirense.

Just one month after moving to Porto, Militão was awarded his first ever senior cap for the Brazilian national side, playing the full 90 minutes in another comfortable debut win – 5-0 versus El Salvador.

Since then, Militão has been a constant presence within the back line at Porto, playing 34 times in various cup and league competitions. Similarly to his time in São Paulo, Militão started out as a central defender – often partnering fellow Brazilian Felipe – but he has since been moved across to right-back, as head coach Sérgio Conceição has alternated between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 system.

Just as Porto progressed through to the quarter finals of the 2018/19 UEFA Champions League, Militão has agreed a lucrative 6-year deal to join Spanish giants Real Madrid, becoming Zinedine Zidane’s first signing in his second spell at the club. Madrid are likely to meet the €50 million buyout clause (before it increases in the summer), despite rumoured interest from the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Juventus.

Tactical Analysis
As previously mentioned, the versatility of Militão’s performances is a huge asset for any defensive player. Key injuries to personnel can quickly derail a solid back line. But if the defensive unit has versatility within, the relationships between players are more likely to remain solid and consistent – a key trait of elite back lines.

Militão stands at 186cm, which isn’t particularly noteworthy for a central defender, yet remains largely uncommon for a full-back. His added height when utilised as a right-back gives his back line another defensive advantage, as Militão can attack diagonal balls with ease (above).

Should opponents look to target full-backs in either open play or during set-pieces – a key component of Juventus’ attacking play – then Militão offers added aerial protection. This however doesn’t always translate to his central defensive performances – especially when up against a powerful central forward – so a more aerially dominant central defensive partner may be required for the long term.

Despite his size, he isn’t particularly cumbersome and hasn’t been too exposed when against fast and nimble wingers. His ability to defend along the touchline is very good for his age, as he can delay attacks, block crosses, and force the ball out of play with his strong upper body. When 1 v 1 against runners he’s excellent at timing when to cut his run across an opponent (above), helping him to reach loose balls or long aerial passes first. This particular trait comes in handy when up against quick forwards, who look to run directly in behind.

Despite his versatility, at times with Porto this season, Militão has been exposed when up against wingers who prefer to start wide, but then cut inside with the ball – usually a trait of wrong-footed wide players. Shifting his weight from right to left causes an imbalance, which can then lead to an inability to poke or pinch the ball away with his left foot. As a result, Militão can mistime tackles with his left leg. Sometimes he will attempt to use his stronger right foot to tackle instead, which leads to an even more awkward body shape. Therefore any wide attacker who is capable of cutting inside and dribbling diagonally towards goal may find themselves beating the youngster in a 1 v 1 situation.

Despite being predominantly renowned for his defensive attributes, the Brazilian youngster has, on rare occasions, played further forward in a defensive midfield role. However, when part of the back line, Militão can offer accurate longer diagonal passes out to the far side (below) – across to a winger running in behind, or a vacant wide midfielder. Although his short build up play needs refining, his ability to hit longer balls is already of a high standard.

Role at new club
Militão follows in the footsteps of fellow defenders Pepe and Danilo in joining Real Madrid from Porto. Naturally, Militão will slot into Madrid’s back line as an initial back up to the likes of Raphaël Varane and Sergio Ramos in central defence, mainly competing with Nacho as the first choice for rotation.

With regards to the right-back role, Militão will face initial competition from Dani Carvajal, who has long been Zidane’s first choice. However, with Carvajal one of Madrid’s poor performers this season, Militão may find himself as the first choice right-back before long.

The signing of Alvaro Odriozola was a curious move, with the young Spanish defender hardly featuring in his first season in the Spanish capital under both Santiago Solari and Julen Lopetegui. With Madrid likely to spend further on more advanced players – and thus looking to sell some of their unwanted assets to balance the books – Odriozola could be one of those names to depart before too long, leaving Militão to show Zidane what he can offer ahead of Carvajal.

Should Zidane look to bring the average age of the starting XI – and particularly the back line – down, then adding Militão into central defence early could help form a more powerful, longstanding relationship with the likes of Varane and Sergio Reguilón (aged 22). This would then mean reducing game time for the likes of Ramos and Marcelo – both key components of Zidane’s previous successes.

But this may be a necessary decision. As rivals Barcelona are showing with some of their more recent signings of Frenkie de Jong (21), Ousmane Dembélé (21) and Arthur (22), long-term projects with up-and-coming starlets could well be the way to follow up the prolonged success that Zidane had at Real Madrid the first time around.

Éder Militao

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